With babies babbling in the background, filmmaker Rob Reiner urged support of a 50-cent state tax on cigarettes to pay for early childhood development programs.

"We need to get to the children early and make an investment early," he said Monday during a visit to a college campus day care center in Pleasant Hill, Calif.His initiative, called the California Children and Families First Act of 1998, would set up programs to provide parental education and family support services, and to help pregnant women and parents of young children to stop smoking.

It has been estimated the tax could raise $700 million a year.

Reiner, "Meathead" on TV's "All in the Family" and later the director of such films as "When Harry Met Sally," has created his own foundation, lobbied Washington and traveled the country to promote interest in the importance of nurturing infants and pre-schoolers.